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Hillsboro man translates New Testament

Fenstermacher began translating after suffering a stroke

Staff writer

Bob Fenstermacher, of Hillsboro, sought God’s guidance. He had a stroke Oct. 15, 2008, and was recovering in a hospital bed in Wichita. The incident made vividly clear that his time on earth was limited, so he asked God what he could do with the remainder of his life that would be of worth.

God gave him an answer: translate the New Testament from Greek.

Fenstermacher earned a Master of Theology degree in New Testament literature and exegesis in 1949 from Dallas Theological Seminary. As part of his studies, he became familiar with Greek.

Fenstermacher — 83 years old at the time — estimated he could complete the translation in eight years if he completed 10 verses per day. That would make him 91 when he finished it.

The retired pastor thought he had a chance to live that long, and he was confident he would because he had a goal. So when he left the hospital after eight days, he began his translation.

About 14 months later, Fenstermacher has completed translating James, 1 Peter, and Revelation. He also has completed expositions of James and 1 Peter, in which he explains some of the particulars of verses. He is currently working on his exposition of Revelation.

Several people have asked him why translate the New Testament when it has already been done has come up several times. He is working on it for his own understanding of scripture, he said.

Fenstermacher isn’t translating the books of the New Testament in any particular order. He began with James.

“James is a very practicable book,” he said.

He then translated 1 Peter, because he was teaching a Sunday school class about the book. He translated Revelation third simply because he wanted to get it done, he said.

Translating James and 1 Peter dramatically improved his understanding of those books, he said. He thinks he will begin work on the Gospels when he is finished with Revelation. The first Gospel he plans to translate is John.

The translation process

Translating 10 verses takes about four hours, depending on the length and difficulty of the verses, he said.

Fenstermacher prays for guidance before he begins translating.

He starts by diagramming a verse in Greek, identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives, clauses, and phrases. He diagrams verses on notebook paper. Two or three verses usually fit on each page.

Once he has diagrammed a verse, he translates it, looking up any words he isn’t familiar with. He then compares his initial translation to other English translations of the Bible.

He agrees with other translations sometimes but disagrees other times, he said.

“It’s a thrill when I think, ‘Oh, now I know how they got this translation,’” Fenstermacher said.

Some translations are better than others, he said. He thinks the King James version of the Bible is a good translation.

Finally, he reviews his translation for clarity and readability. When he has completed translating a book, he begins his exposition, typing it on his home computer. Fenstermacher then re-reads his translation of the book, to see how it all fits together. That makes it easier to teach, he said.

“You can get lost in just reading a verse,” he said, adding that it is an accomplishment to understand how it fits in its chapter.

Fenstermacher is happy to share his completed expositions with anyone interested, he said.

“It really has given me a goal every day,” he said. “I’m excited.”

Last modified Jan. 6, 2010

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